Straight model Bella Hadid making out with CGI influencer Miquela for Calvin Klein's 'I speak my truth in my Calvins' campaign in 2019.

Queerbaiting is a term used to describe a manipulative marketing practice of using perceived or potential queerness for publicity.[1][2] It has allegedly been used since the 1950s[3] and has been used online,[1] such as by users on the blogging platform Tumblr expressing anger over the treatment of LGBT+ individuals in media,[4][5] and has since been expanded to include businesses and celebrities using queer imagery to appeal to the LGBT+ community for the sake of publicity, promotion, or capitalistic gain.[1] Deliberate queerbaiting has a malicious element, often most-clearly seen through television media as writers and creators hint at queerness before "emphatically denying and laughing off the possibility".[6]

Queerbaiting is not the same as queercoding, as queercoding occurs when there is "enough subtext available for an audience to read [characters] as queer",[7] but is not necessarily manipulative, unlike queerbaiting. Joseph Brennan noted in his book that there is a distinction between "unintentional, or genuine, homoeroticism and queerbaiting" (emphasis original).[8]

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The term comes from the noun "queer" (not-heterosexual, not-cisgender) combined with the verb "to bait" (the act of luring, as if into a trap). It harkens from the political portmanteau of "race-baiting",[3][5] which was used to bring up perceived negative details of an opponent to undermine them.


Historically, there has been limited representation of queer people in mainstream media; the representation that did exist often painted male characters as villains or people with mental disorders,[9] while women demonstrating lesbian traits were frequently killed off to suit a white heteronormative narrative - the 'tragic lesbian' theme.[10]

While the practice of queerbaiting is often seen as a negative, some members of the LGBT+ community view it as an improvement in the representation of queer people and queer relationships.[11] Conversely, some believe that queercoded characters who do not end up cementing that queerness (often by entering a canon relationship) amount to queerbaiting, regardless of extenuating contexts or circumstances, including the "queerness" of the creators themselves or the LGBT+ representation and diversity already contained within such media.[12]


For more information regarding Queerbaiting in media, please see the queerbaiting trope page.

When speaking from a strictly media perspective, queerbaiting refers to the usage of creating an illusion of queerness around a specific character or characters to lure in audiences. The creator or writers manipulatively use subtext to imply a romantic attraction but have no intention to ever make it canon. This includes the posture of characters, interactions, conversations, and even blatantly making one of the characters queer while refusing to acknowledge the other. It is a recurrent and still popular trope in media, with the most common version being a "dreamscape" where two characters are inherently queer in that world but not in the "canon" storyline.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mendes II, Moises: "Why Queerbaiting Matters More Than Ever" (2021-07-23). Rolling Stone.
  2. Murphy, Colleen: "Queerbaiting: What it Looks Like and Why It's Harmful".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "What Is Queerbaiting? - Meaning & Explanation" (2022).
  4. Lan: "An Explanation of Queer Baiting and Why It's a Problem" (2012-11-28). Tumblr.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Queer Baiting - 21st-Century Interdisciplinary Dictionary" (2016-03-29). Neologisms.
  6. Fathallah, Judith. Moritary's Ghost: Or the Queer Disruption of BBC's Sherlock. Television News & Media, 2015.
  7. Jaigirdar, Adiba: "What is Queerbaiting vs Queercoding?" (2021-07-09). Book Riot.
  8. Queerbaiting and fandom : teasing fans through homoerotic possibilities. Brennan, Joseph, University of Iowa Press, 2019. English.
  9. Shannon, Rogan: "Queer Coding and Queer Baiting" (2018-05-15).
  10. Framke, Caroline: "Queer women have been killed on television for decades. Now The 100's fans are fighting back" (2016-03-25). Vox.
  11. Honderich, Holly: "Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?" (2019-04-08). BBC News.
  12. Elderkin, Beth: "Steven Universe Artist Quits Twitter Over Fan Harassment" (2016-08-13). Gizmodo.
  13. Cite_web error: missing url parameter must be specified. Leah Ronski: "[{{{url}}} Queerbaiting vs. Representation: Media Today]" (October 14, 2020). [{{{url}}}// {{{url}}}].